Should I give them? Can they take it?

So I have seen the phrase ‘if I don’t give them, how will they take it?,’ used on social media very often recently.   I love love love the phrase and honestly I have been seeking an opportunity to use it too. Unfortunately, I am rarely in a state where I think one can use that phrase. You know, the people (mainly girls – actually I have only seen girls use this phrase) who usually use it when they are all glammed up and snatched, they have their nails done, makeup on fleek,  dressed to the nines and even baby hairs are laid. I think I am only any of these things once every 3 years.

I mean to start with, I don’t even have baby hairs to lay – the crust like clusters on each side of my head definitely do not fit the definition of baby hair. In igbo they are called – ‘isi ukwu ose’. (Translator needed please?) So that automatically makes it impossible for me to fulfill that criterion. Moreover, in terms of dressing, a jean and tshirt are always the winning outfit choice in my life.  Of course how can I forget, my eyebrows have refused to understand that they do not always have to form a confluence at the ridge above my nose and the only item of makeup I currently own is the sheabutter I use as lipbalm.

So each time I  see the girls who put up this posts, I would dream in my head about the day I could get to use that phrase. So far I have gotten to use it twice (both occasions on friends who met the above criteria) out of fear that by the time I would finally get to use it on myself, the phrase would be extinct.

Anyway, I am very happy to announce that I too can get to use the phrase!!!!! (This isn’t dramatic at all!) A few months ago, I got an offer to leave the most noble (and least paying?) profession in the world (law) and join the glitzy (and only marginally better paying) and artificially seductive streets of corporate Nigeria. (I have sold a part of my soul, I know!) A few months before I got this job, I was lying in bed early one morning and thinking very deep thoughts about my life. This lasted for a few hours and at the end of which I made up my mind to cut – rather to scrape off – all the hair on my head once the sun came up that day!

Shocking? Perhaps! Drastic? Not so much! I mean, I had been sharing with close family and friends earlier that year that I wanted to cut my hair by the end of the year. I mean there were many reasons, one of which is that I had been a ‘naturalista‘ for a whole 7 years and my hair had not grown past thumb length in all those years…. yet I would see someone with shoulder length natural hair and was barely past a year into this natural hair world. The person would look at my length and try to comfort me with ‘dont worry, keep at it, the first year is usually the most awkward year’. At first I used to bother shocking them with the fact it had been natural 7 whole years and go through the charade of disbelief, then laughter, then endless questions on what ‘my routine’ is and get offered more and more advice on ‘new routines’. What they did not know and I tried to explain is that in 7 years, I had been there and DONE ALL OF THAT. My hair has just refused to get with the programme (I lost the genetic lottery on hair – (no) thanks Mom!).  After sometime, I too got tired of the charade and the laughter and I let the adviser feel the comfort of sharing their natural hair  testimony and I would listen humbly and pretend to be excited to hit the one year mark too. I have digressed, havent I?

Anyway, my mom bluntly told me not to cut my hair. My dad didn’t say a word, but in reality I never pointedly told him, I only said it in his presence. All but one of my close friends were mortified that I dared mention it and advised me not to. Even I tried to talk – or think- myself out of the idea. At the back of my mind, I remembered all my horrific memories of my hair being scrapped off by the barber when I was much younger. I was about to head to secondary school and because my dad ‘did not want me to be stressed about figuring out how to get my hair cornrowed in school’, he invited a barber to the house and against my will, my hair was scrapped off! In reality, his real concern was that hair would distract me from facing my books (my dad and my education? Truest love affair ever!) He also mentioned that didn’t want me looking unkempt – lol but he should have been advised that that was a battle he could not win. Over 20 years later, the good Lord is still working on me! Anyway, I didn’t like my hair being cut then. I felt I I did not look as ‘pretty’ as the girls in school with their hair. What is more? I didn’t have a relationship with my hair comb so I barely ever combed my hair so really  – JUST HORRIFIC MEMORIES.

In fact I recalled when I was chewing gum in class and I was caught and the teacher asked to put the gum in the middle of my hair. I have always had a thing about being a good student, being liked by teachers, so getting caught doing something ‘terrible’ made me feel very bad so I tried to show the teacher I was truly remorseful by pressing the gum into my hair while listening attentively from my kneeling position in the front of the whole class for the rest of the 2 hour lesson (it was a double period). After the two hours, I couldn’t get the gum off without chopping off the hair in the middle of my head with the help of a ‘friend’ and a pair of scissors. So I walked around for the next few weeks or months with an obvious bald patch in my hair. Horrific, truly horrific memories!

However, as I lay in bed that morning drowning in thoughts, I had a deep longing to start over! I was determined to cut my hair that same day! I couldn’t wait till December (2018). I would do it that morning I concluded. It occurred to me that this might be the reasoning of a sleep deprived mixed with a deeply anxious state of mind but I was convinced it was the only thing I wanted to do so I went ahead and cut my hair that same morning – BALD! I didn’t consult a soul. I just came home to shock my family and the rest of the week shocked friends with it.

Now the reaction was overwhelming. I had friends who teased me endlessly. A friend said ‘Mr. XYZ (insert surname) now has 5 sons’. Other friends thought it looked dope. Honestly the truth is that I couldn’t care less about the reactions of people who didn’t like it. I cut my hair with the mindset that I would look terrible and I wanted to free myself from that mindset of caring, of wanting people to like me. I wanted to in my head know that I might not look physically attractive to the rest of the world and not care about it (because it really bothers me in my head that I do care about this even if I shouldn’t!). I was trying to shake my reality to match my beliefs. I went to my brothers’ barber (yes I didn’t learn. I cancelled my appointment for the bourgie natural hair salon that charged me N6,000 for a mere wash and ‘treatment’ – the lady put conditioner in my hair and stuck me under a steamer and called it a hair treatment!!!!). So everyone who expressed their lack of love for it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would and when it did, I told myself I needed to free myself from their prisms and expectations of beauty and propriety.

Now I let me go back to the story at the beginning – Should I give them? Can they take it? Like I mentioned, I resume a new job next year. Mind you when I went through the interview stages of this job, I had a ‘full’ head of hair even if they couldn’t see it under the wig on my head. I went for the interview completely like a ‘normal’ Nigerian young girl, with my braids wig on my head. Since I cut my hair, I have worn my wig on the very few occasions I ventured out, usually because I had no interest in shocking the people I was to meet. (For what shall it profit a Nigerian girl that the data page of her passport shows her with a full head of hair and the actual visa has a bald head? I already stand too long at immigration, I wasn’t about to undergo facial recognition.)

Recently the 5 sons comment friend asked me ‘I hope you won’t carry your hair like this when you resume work?’ I looked at her and laughed, mainly because she hated it so much and had expressed same severally and also mainly because I didn’t even know what I would do. Is it okay to show up looking completely different? I have wondered if anyone including the people that met me during the process would recognise me? Does it tell on my character as an erratic and unpredictable person or a girl who is going through some deep emotional struggles – you know they say a girl cuts her hair when something dramatic happens in her life? Would they think I would wake up one morning and pull a similar stunt with regards to their job?  Would they take me seriously or take the first few minutes to question me about what necessitated the change? Would that kind of attention distract from the work I am there to do? Does it even matter? Am I over thinking it? My friend has been in the corporate world for an entire year. She already expressed horror at the fact that I carried a back pack – not a fancy looking one- but literally a school bag to go pick up the appointment letter . She was like ‘better don’t do this behaviour when you resume. They will just know you are a JJC’. So now will I be the weird bald chick who carries a school bag to work because I believe that it is my professional abilities that should speak for me? (Although I also know and believe that half of climbing the ladder is about people’s perceptions and ability to relate to you- in other words, packaging!)  Should I show up a conformist, with a handbag and a full head of hair and pretend that is who I am (and on some days, that is who I am and want to be!!!!). Is it okay to be bald one day and show up with a wig the next?

Another friend recently chatted me up and asked me ‘I hope you will give them with this new look at that job next year?’ I laughed and my instructions from my girlfriend played through my mind again. I am still thinking and deciding who I should be at the job with many many things, but especially with the hair, the question is ‘if I give them, can they take it?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Dance of Masquerades

Adamma1

The aroma of roasted chicken, goat meat and peppered jollof rice
boiling over huge earthen pots over stacks of lighted firewood meanders

Drifting from the backyard of the main house, the duplex,
coursing its way through the dry foggy harmattan morning
into the nostrils of the late risers still curled in beds

Drumming and intense gyration can be made out not afar off,
it is coming from the yard; the yard of the main house, the duplex

 

‘Adamma is here. The village masquerade is here’  praise singers chorus in unison.
Their voices seemingly entwined with the voices of the udu; the talking drums,
Climb up the floors of the main house; the duplex
Circling the walls of the house, seeping into bedrooms

The gyration hits a high note; the tempo is fast, like the pounding of a runner’s heart
beckoning the occupants of the main house, the duplex out of their snoring slumbers.

Adamma is aroused as well, out of her bed
in which she lay seduced by the chilly harmattan morning.

Adamma the village masquerade stands in the middle of the yard;
Statue still, as though in defiance to something.
Praise singers, with belled anklets and bracelets jiggle and jingle
as they jump around her, enjoining her to join the frenzy.

Adamma stands in the middle of it all,
staring intently at the emerging occupants of the house;
at little Adamma, staring right back at her, admiring the frenzy
and yet hating it for disrupting her sleep.

 

Adamma and Adamma find each other; each enthralled by the other.

 

Adamma, the village masquerade covered in colourful rag patched clothes;
most of them yellow, green and red
The mask is yellow, of a face, a mildly smiling.
The hair is look and dread-locked; dada.

Little Adamma in her ‘hello Kittie’ pyjamas and her feet covered
with matching pink fluffy flip flops. Her tightly plaited Bob Marley braids
stand high in a knot on her head and the ends
beaded in with yellow, green, red, white and pink plastics.

 ‘Adamma, come back this very minute’ her father demands
as little Adamma steps off the porch down the stairs, into the yard.
While other children stare frightfully from behind or beneath
their mothers yellow and black kirikiri stars wrapper

 

Adamma moves; breaking her statute like pose.
Her legs jiggle and jingle loud, louder than that of her praise singers combined.

Little Adamma now assumes the statue like pose,
as Adamma makes a leap in the air, flying miles across the yard,
and in another leap flies back into little Adamma’s face.

Adamma lifts her beaded belled ankles, twisting, turning and weaving through the air.
Her feet assume the lightness of air, and move in rhythm to her arm,
in rhythm to the drums and in rhythm to all the forces of the universe.
Her smiling face mask remains smiling as her head sways,
Encircling little Adamma in swift dizzying movements.

 

‘Adamma, Adamma, get back here this very minute’ her father demands again,
more forcefully, more frightfully, his voice dwarfed and drowned by
the voices of the loudly speaking drums; and trumpeting opi and ogene.

Little Adamma awakens from her trance; dropping her statue like pose.
Her head moves in swift rounds, as though her eyes are chasing an apparition
Her feet, rise and fall softly on the red clay, raising small red clouds of dust.

The drums stop and only the rattling ichaka can be heard

 

She continues.

 

Gliding her hands in slow snake-like patterns, through the air,
her feet assuming a lightness and swiftness of a gazelle,
her head dizzy and her face contorted into a smile; a proud Adamma smile.

Little Adamma makes a leap towards Adamma,
Adamma leaps the opposite way

The drums start again, the opi and ogene accompanying it
All else is quiet watching Adamma and Adamma.

 

Adamma makes a smaller leap towards Little Adamma, her feet on touching the ground
Jiggle at the speed of a passing train, raising greater clouds of red dust
Encircle her upper body which is moving sensually like a new bride’s

Little Adamma follows.
The crowd is cheers
The praise singers recommence their chants.
The voice of each drum speaking harmoniously over the other

Little Adamma drops to the floor, her knees kissing the red earth
Her fingers are entwined, standing at the same level with her chest,
she moves side to side, her fingers pushing back and forth against her chest,
her back moving in opposite direction to her hands,
her little beaded Bob Marley head shaking intensely, adding new melody to the music.

Adamma too drops to her knees. Replicating Little Adamma’s move.
The two remain in this position, till their movements are synchronised
Each movement pre-empted and executed simultaneously
Even their hearts throbbing at the same rate,

They dance till praise singers can shout no more and
the little ones, thumbs in mouth, crawl out from behind their mother’s wrappers,
till the occupants of the duplex, move off the porch, into the crowd,
their hands clapping in unison with the crowd and praise singers

Little Adamma stands, bending at the hip and wiggling,
slowly, naturally, with the easy grace acquired with womanhood.
Adamma too stands, bends at her hips and wiggles.
Side by side, they wiggle and tantalize the maddened crowd
Till the drum stops! Abrupt!
Faces shiny with sweat clap rhythmically, enjoining the drums to recommence

 

‘Little Adamma challenged the spirits today and entertained the gods’ the praise singers chant.

 

The music begins again.

Of Police Harrassment and an erratic taxi driver…

police

May I begin this good ole rant by saying that I have a dislike-dislike relationship for people in uniform; I mean starting with the security guard at Chicken Republic all the way up to the General Commander of the Armed Forces of Nig…(okay you get my point)? There is something that a uniform does to an ordinary Nigerian; especially when that uniform comes along with an instrument of force e.g. gun, baton, stick- generally anything that will put this person above the ordinary non-uniformed Nigerian. A simple experiment might be to pick up the ‘average Joe’ from the street and give him a uniform and stand him at the corner of the street. You will not have to wait long to see him exhausting the countless unthinkable ways of using that authority to the menace of other ‘average Joes’ like him. This is probably why it is rare to see a Nigerian girl say ‘I love a man in a uniform’; the Nigerian girls who usually say this are the ones who live abroad and the ‘man in a uniform’ they refer to do not cross the boundaries of the country in which they (the girls) reside;in fact they are likely to cast and bind at the inclusion of Nigerian uniformed men in this mix’.

Recently, I have had to make a few journeys to the island  for which I employed the services of a taxi and it is because of him that this post arises. So this taxi driver is Kenny (not real name of course). Now Kenny is one of those people with what I call the Nigerian ‘je ne sais quo’. Those Nigerians who do not have a minute to engage in even one unnecessary conversation, let alone fool around- basically the Nigerian No Nonsense Attitude. It is that attitude that tells you the hell off when you are being an idiot- as he did to many drivers on our way. I mean for bus drivers who are usually mouthy and rude- he sure kept them quiet! Sitting in his cab was like being on the First Class Ticket to every country of the world- you felt you could get your way with anything and everything; you felt invincible really. I found this very sexy. (I am sorry I admire beauty everywhere I see it!).

Now this is what was not sexy: Kenny trying to get us killed a few days later with his ‘je ne sais quo‘. Kenny drove my father and I to Apapa for an appointment. Returning from Apapa, Kenny was again veering his vehicle between lorries and got stopped by a police man. Now remember this guy has an erratic temper and I think like me he really shares a dislike for uniform so once he was stopped I could smell trouble. The police man, in his dusty black uniform asked Kenny for his driver’s licence. Kenny produced it, without a word but his body language said ‘Fuck you’ in a thousand languages across the globe. The police man asked for his ‘particulars’ and the same charade was repeated. While the police man circled around the car, looking at plate numbers over and over, Kenny kept hissing and saying ‘Wetin e dey check there? Leave am! Na money e want! Illiterate, Ordinary School Certificate Holder ‘(I got the feeling Kenny is well read but had been conditioned into doing this job by the state of unemployment). I found all this hilarious sitting at the back of the car because we both shared a dislike for the person he was taking down. The police man circled the vehicle for as long as his dignity would allow him and finally he turned in the papers with a ‘Have a nice ride’. Kenny was short of breaking the poor man’s wrist while snatching the paper from his hands while moving the vehicle and it cracked my dad and I up desperately.

Now if you live in Nigeria, you know that the police has a habit of queuing up, in a straight line, at their check points so that if you are stopped and you try to escape, the next police man down the queue stops you. It is interesting to notice that this second police man is usually the arms bearer, at least in our case he was. So as Kenny veered the car away from one police check point, literally 5 seconds after he was asked to pull over. Instead, Kenny parked in the middle of the road and refused to move, to our sides, gigantic poorly balanced freight cargo lorries were whisking by and in our front was an aggravated armed police man wearing a dusty black beret in the heating sun; I knew this would easily be a case of ‘accidental discharge’- that might be the end of Kenny, and possibly my dad and I as well. In appreciation of this fact, my father practically barked at Kenny to obey to the policeman and go park to the side of the road. Well Kenny wouldn’t be Kenny if he simply gave the policeman the pleasure of winning, would he?

No!

He obeyed the customer and reversed the car in the middle of the traffic, in the process, leisurely rolled his tyres over the policeman’s foot!!!!

The minute that happened, the police man barked, growled, quacked, bleated, shrieked and made all kinds of sounds that an injured beast would make.For a minute, I was certain I was at a circus, or a zoo. Kenny aware of his actions, concentrated hard on ‘parking the car’ and when he finished making the slowest parking in the history of the universe, my father and I begged him to pacify the shrieking officer whose gun was now moving more frequently, instead of the previous way it lay lazily over his arm. Kenny jumped out of the car and started a barking rage with the police officer!

‘You no see say you climb my leg’

‘Na you say make I park, no be park I dey park? You know see say na middle of road be this? Trailer fit jam me throw away!

‘If you be experienced driver, you know sabi say you go use mirror dey look as you dey reverse?

The idea of being called inexperienced threw Kenny into another feat of rage.

‘You sef you no get sense, you no see me dey turn?’

At this point, my father barked at Kenny one more time to apologise to the police officer- although between the 3 of us in the car, we knew the policeman had deliberately left his foot there thinking Kenny would give a damn. He didn’t!

All this while I, in the back seat, was suddenly thrown into the world of my first year and second year Tort and Criminal Law lectures. The case Fagan v Met Police Commissioner came to mind.

Here is a quick look at Google for the facts of this case:

The defendant, Mr. Fagan, was in his car when a police officer approached him and told him to move his car. In accordance with the directions, Fagan backed his car up, accidentally rolling it onto the foot of the officer. When the officer yelled at him to move his car off his foot, he cursed back at him, told him to wait, and refused to move.

Classic Kenny Right?

And the decision on the case?

At trial, Fagan was convicted of “Assaulting a constable in execution of his duties”.

At this point, I became genuinely scared for Kenny. He might not make it to court in Nigeria, giving the incredibly fast movement of the gun of the police man. And if he did, the law couldn’t help him, he would lose the case. Kenny in obedience to my father’s instructions finally apologised very tersely.

‘Oya Sorry, but next time no go put your leg for ground when you see motto. You be pikin?’Kenny barked again and jumped into the car. I had never seen anyone speak to the police in that manner, so I could hardly contain my excitement.The policeman on his end was desperate to show the gradually emerging crowd ‘Lagos style’ that his authority was not diminished. He shouted instructions at the driver to produce his driver’s licence and papers, which Kenny produced again from the brown envelope from which he had just secured it a few seconds ago.

The policeman stared at the picture on the license and glared at Kenny for close to 30 seconds, looking him up and down, details of his eyes, his ears and mouth like he could make all that out from the fading driver’s license. I was at this point again feeling exhausted, the sun beating down on the car with the windows wound down was ferocious and unforgiving, as the look in the policeman’s eyes. From the back seat of the car in which I was  seated, I started to stare at him. I stared at his dusty black uniform, bursting at the buttons from which his belly threatened to burst open and lambast Kenny’s shave induced bumpy face. I stared at the belt securing the surprisingly loose trousers; the belt was also brown, like it had been coated with a layer of clay, although you could see it was once black. The buckle of the belt was once silver or stainless coloured but now was a dull metallic shade of brown. It held his trousers awkwardly against his belly, making the zip area of the trouser look like it had been folded. I could tell that the police man had acquired a big sized uniform, just to cushion his belly but his legs weren’t growing at the same rate.

I observed all this without feeling much emotion, I turned to his face and saw the dirty brownish beret again and the beads of sweat pouring out from under it unto his puffy cheeks. I could tell that he was as uncomfortable in this sun as I was, sitting in it. His eyes also seemed to be twitching nervously. He wasn’t a young man anymore; a man of about 45 or more. I wondered if he was married? If he had kids? How they would feel seeing him in this situation? While I stared or glared at this poor man, I forgot that my mother thought me that it was rude to stare, so that when his eyes met mine, I knew that I had been caught doing what I shouldn’t have done.

Should I look down and away, it might make him feel like he had an edge, an authority over the occupants of the car. But should I stare, it might make him feel more defiled, like the entire occupants of the car had dared him! It isn’t impossible he would shoot at us- there are many instances of police brutality across the world and often- especially in Nigeria- NOTHING HAPPENS! I thought of my dad sitting calmly in the back seat, and Kenny sitting uneasily in the driver’s seat, waiting to be yelled at once again, to return the ‘honour’- basically ready to get us shot under the hot sun on a Tuesday afternoon. All this I thought about while holding his gaze.

I could tell he was making a mental assessment of me, like I did of him. I remembered my mother’s voice telling me that something about my afro hair (in its uncombed state) made me look like a village warrior. She hadn’t really meant it as a compliment but I took it as one and at that moment hoped with all my heart that this man saw a village warrior in me too. I kept my eyes straight, fixed on his and he made an effort to match my stare. We were basically in a contest. I held his stare for close to a minute while continued his assessment. A minute must have passed when I think I saw a little squint.

I was winning!

I stared harder but this time poured a heavy dose of irritation into my eyes.

He squinted again, as though he was being blinded by the sun. I held his ‘squinty’ gaze

Finally, he dropped his eyes!

I had won I thought. I had won! So what happens next?

I thought I would help him regain his composure, because now he stayed glued to the driver’s particulars, not even shuffling the papers, just staring down looking blankly.

‘Sir,’ I said all sweetly and a tad overtly diffident ‘we have just been checked literally a minute ago by your colleague down there.’

He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, stared at me for a second, probably thinking that I had various personalities lurking in me, waiting to be unleashed as well. He turned his eyes now towards his colleague who he had previously seen harassing us, now harassing another driver. When he looks back at us, he gently bent down, looking through the window by my side of the car, avoiding my eyes and shot a quick look at my father; who has recently refused to run a clipper through his hair, leaving it in my opinion beautifully all grey.

‘Oya driver comot. Na because of this old man you carry I leave you o’ he said quickly and thrust Kenny’s papers into the car, very glad to get rid of us.

‘You know say I carry old man and you keep me under sun since?’ Kenny sighed, making a show of rearranging his papers, meticulously placing them back in the brown envelope before he veered the car back into the Apapa traffic.

‘Who is an old man?’ my father asked humorously; sending the little triumphant smile spread across my face into full blown laughter. Even Kenny laughed too.


Actually, looking at the title this post now, I can’t honestly say who did the harassing; the policeman? Kenny? My third personality; the village warrior? Or unspoken intimidation at seeing a fully greyed man- but then again when has that ever stopped them?

‘Dress like a Lady’

Disney Princesses

My alarm rings at 6:30am. I have to be at the hospital at 9am, I have some few minutes to drift in and out of sleep. I swing around slowly on my bed and with my head tightly pressed against my pillow, I hoist my body weight on my right hand and fumble around the table with my left hands for my phone.

‘Work Hard! Play Hard! Work Hard Play Hard! Work, Work, Work,…’ the alarm goes as I continue to drift in and out of consciousness while searching for my phone. I know it will be much more efficient if I got up and looked for my phone. But as a young over worked public hospital doctor, I value my limited hours of sleep disproportionately more than the average person. My fingers run into a couple of keys and my forefinger gets stuck with the key holder. I clumsily continue to fumble around the table till my fingers make contact with my glass of water which I intended to drink from the night before but had slept off.

‘Aunty, drink a glass of water early in the morning and immediately you go to bed, this your pimple go clear’, a cashier at the bank had offered her unsolicited advice while I ran a bank errand for father. Her effrontery irritated me and yet I found myself following her advice, which I had heard previously, followed and discarded. At least she was not rude about it. I had heard worse; ‘Aunty, how you be doctor and still dey get pimple like this?’ the man at the convenience store had said while I attempted to buy some cotton wool last week. I hiss angrily and perhaps, in transferred aggression, move my hand a tad forcibly away from the glass. Somehow, it colludes instead with the glass and it clatters noisily unto the tiles on the floor!

‘Merde!’ I scream and swing my feet off the bed and let it hang mid air while observing the mess I have made on the floor. I had a habit of cursing in French; it is the only aftermath of my relationship with Martin. There was nothing spectacular about the relationship; no highs and no lows.  Four years of my life spent dating a french guy, the alleged most romantic men on earth and my verdict is … I have no verdict. It was uneventful. I wonder why I stayed. Actually I don’t wonder. I stayed because it was just enough escape from medical school and the mountainous responsibility I faced.

I stayed because it was that point in my life where as Tonye describes, ‘everybody and their mothers are in serious relationships’. It felt like secondary school all over; like Jss3 every girl’s breasts seemed, like flowers in the hands of a very industrious and zealous gardener, to sprout and blossom. Except mine! I felt as though this gardener had forgotten about me. There was no sprouting and no blossoming! Boarding school was hard. I wasn’t going to do that all over as a grown woman so when Martin came around, I stayed with him. When I broke up with him, he simply said, ‘Okay’. I didn’t even need to give a reason for the breakup.

I move my eye from the floor back unto the table, the water on the table quickly soaking up my the papers on my table while some of it drops noiselessly unto the floor, amongst the shards of glass scattered across the floor.

Mer-de!’ I repeat, a bit more drawn out now as I pick the larger pieces of glass off the floor and dust my flip-flops to ensure that the tinier particles are not stuck to them. Although I have my slippers on, I still tip toe out of the room, as though I was stepping in a mine field.

Downstairs in the kitchen, Garuba is  refilling the water dispenser.

‘Good morning sister’ he says, his eyes fitted low, away from my eyes. I have been home now for over 2 months and Garuba refuses to look at my eyes while he speaks to me. When he speaks to me, his eyes are trained down, as though his eyes are being drawn by a magnetic force or they obey a force of gravity that the rest of world’s defies.

‘Garuba, you know, you don’t have to look down while you talk to me?’, I had offered during my first week of being home. I haven’t been home in nearly 4 years. I had been in the UK getting my first degree qualification. I am now a Dr and my father insists on using me as his little show puppet. He takes me around everywhere, to the bank, to the filling station, and to friends’ houses. Everywhere he introduces me as ‘his daughter, the Doctor’. When he had asked Garuba to unload my luggage from the car when I got home, he had said ‘Pick doctor’s bag from the boot’ he had said.

Although I am very proud of my achievement, I know the effect to which my father used those words, and they did not make me proud. He used it as a term to put in bold, the societal lines between us and the rest of the world, as though a mansion at Banana Island and various houses in Abu Dhabi, London and New York acquired through his various government contracts did not draw them well enough. So when I asked Garuba to call me by my name Halima, not Doctor and when I asked him to speak to me with his eyes raised, I was attempting to blur those lines. Moreover, Garuba was a grown man, in his mid or late twenties. He didn’t have to refer to me with exaggerated respect just because he worked for my father.

However, I soon came to find out that Garuba had a habit of starring down, not because he respected me but because he had a habit of starring at my legs. It didn’t matter what I was wearing, shorts, skirts, jeans, a wrapper or a long or short gown, when I was within sight, Garuba would stare at my length of my legs, at the space between my thighs and the width of my thighs. I know this because he stares at father and mother and Abubakar in the face while he is addressed.

Today was no different. He stared at my legs while he said good morning, while I picked up the broom and the dustpan and while he offered to do the cleaning for me. He starred, not for one minute stopping to blink his eyes, or to meet my gaze, although I spoke directly to him. He kept his head lowered and stared at my legs.


‘Halima? Halima? Halima?’

‘Yes daddy’ I say while I stand at the door of my parents’ room, my arms against my chest and my feet crossed at the ankles.

‘So you want me to run downstairs, this early morning and scold a house boy, to scold Garuba for staring at your legs when you have refused to cover them up’  he says, peering at me through his glasses, running his eyes disgusted down the length of my pyjamas.’

‘Papa, so I am supposed to walk around my father’s house wrapped up like an Egyptian mummy so that Garuba will not stare at my legs? It isn’t only about today and these shorts. It is a routine. I have noticed it since I came home this summer.’

‘And since you came home this summer haven’t you run around this city in shorts which are not your pyjamas either? You spend seven years abroad and you forget your values eh? You seem to have forgotten you are a woman! Walking up and down Lagos bare- legged. Now you want me to warn Garuba for staring at your naked legs!  After that do you want me to pick fights with every man on the street too who stares at your legs as well? My friend, go and find something to do with your time.’ he says, with a wave of his hand in dismissal and his tongue laden with disgust and mockery.

‘Papa, I do not run around the city in shorts. As a matter of fact, I have worn shorts once, out of this house and that was last Saturday when I went to the beach with Tonye. When I go to my placement at the hospital Papa, I wear a black skirt and a white shirt. That is the mandatory outfit. But daddy, that is not the point I should be able to wear anything that makes me feel comfortable, especially in my father’s house without a man starring lasciviously between my thighs.’

‘I am not here to argue with you young lady. When you go back to London, you can dress like a harlot if you want! But while you are in this house, under my roof, you will dress like a lady!

My anger boils from the sole of my feet upwards and up to the top of my head. Yet I am unable to find words to convey to my emotions. I wish Tonye were here now. She was quick with words. She would know what she would say to father that he would have him balling in shame over his present attitude. I had watched her severally demolish man after man who to his  ultimate misfortune grabbed her ass at the club or assumed that she wanted to be taken home that night because she came to the club dressed ‘so  goddamn sexy.’

Why did you leave your house dressed so goddamn sexy if you did not want the attention?’ Tonye knew what to say that got the guy apologising the for half of the night and the other half seated at the smoking area with Tonye having a chat about sexism and women. I should have been learning from her so that I would be able to tell my father that I reserved a right not to be groped or mentally undressed by any man irrespective of what my dressing did to or for him. But for now I can’t figure out my words quite right or put them in words profound enough to shame my father, so instead I start towards the door.


‘Sister, I don clean the water. I comot the glass too’, Garuba mutters, head bent as I storm back to my room. I stop for an instant, looking at him brush and dustpan in hand, big pieces of glass neatly stacked on the dust pan like I had picked them earlier.

I close the gap between him and I in a few step and now I am inches away from his bent head. There are a few inches of height difference between us too; I am taller. ‘You should know…’ I say picking up one of the bigger pieces of glasses off the dustpan, my face is now a kissing distance from his. His eyes dart around frantically, bouncing off the walls of the corridor like he was there for the first time.

‘Garuba’ I continue, slowly, not in a hurry. ‘I have a message for you’

‘Anything Sister’ he responds his eyes now trained at my fingers and the piece of glass between them.

‘Anything bah?’ I repeat

‘Anything Sister’ he says nodding his head slowly.

‘Garuba, any day I dey talk to you, and your eye dey down here’ I was saying using my left hand to indicate my thighs and the length of my legs while his eyes run down the length of my legs quickly and a bad performance at surprise follows.

‘I repeat am oo, Garuba, any day wey your eye dey down here, or any other place wey e no suppose be, you see this glass wey dey my hand so…’ I say indicating the glass in the big shard of glass standing aggressively between the fingers.

‘I go use am design your face…’

His mouth drops.

‘After I don use am commot your eyes, the two of them!’ I conclude while his mouth shuts and drops repeatedly like a drowning aquaphobic.

His eyes finally meet mine after he finally recollects himself. I don’t wait for him to speak the words which have finally formed on his lips. I walk away with my piece of glass.

This is way quicker than figuring out what it means to dress like a lady!

‘It is getting increasing harder to be a proud Nigerian’

I was having a conversation with a Nigerian during the wake of the kidnap of the 234+ girls from Chibok earlier this year when the statement above was made. The kidnap was a few days before my birthday and when my birthday arrived I was feeling generally depressed. I was increasingly disoriented with the state of affairs in the country. No longer do Nigerians have to contend with bad (or non-existent) infrastructure, substandard education, corruption, low remuneration for doctors and teachers and maddeningly high and unjustifiable remuneration for law makers, embarrassment from activities of these same law makers in the discharge of their duties (either they are caught on camera mouth agape, sleeping like they had spent all night at a vigil, or they are caught throwing punches and blows at each other like they are a boxing ring). No longer do we have to worry about these. Nigerians now had bigger fish to fry; bigger evils to worry about; now we had to worry about constant state of insecurity and terrorism in the country; the almost daily bombing and kidnapping of young boys and girls. We also had to deal with its ramifications for our international image.

I remember my first few years outside of Nigeria, I was 16 and in every way a greenhorn; I had never lived outside of Nigeria; and when I was in Nigeria I was either cooked up inside the boarding house or my father’s house. Hence when I was thrown into an international school with over 80 nationalities; it took me a little while to adjust to the fact that I wasn’t just OMA anymore, I am a Nigerian. And regardless of the little grievances I had against my country like electricity shortages during my favourite soap, selling of WAEC papers or leaking of answers before an exam so that both those who worked their asses off and those who sat on their asses were at par, I had to represent my country. I had to be Nigerian and I had to be proud to be Nigerian because no other person was going to do it.

To this end, I became an expert at reading between the lines so that when asked ‘do you live in houses like this?’ – I knew the real question was ‘do you live on trees or in mud or thatch houses?’ or ‘are your houses as ‘civilized as these?’ I usually responded pointing out that houses here are built mainly with wood, hence everything is so porous; I fart in this room and you hear it in the next. We dont live in houses like this, our houses are built with concrete, and they are not only stronger and better suited for our climate but also keep noise at a minimum. When met with less subtle remarks like ‘If I came to Africa with my pocket money, I will be so rich’ (bearing in mind that this is a 16 year old speaking), a close friend Coco (from Cameroon) and I, against the wish of every cell screaming out in our bodies, kept calm and explained to the young Swedish girl that ‘Africa’ is not a country, and regardless of what country in Africa she ended up in, chances are that she wouldn’t last 3 hours with her 16 year old ‘pocket money’.

Now, I look back at these times as simpler times, these were times when I had to deal with naivete and ignorance shrouded in mighty cloaks of arrogance and condescension. What happens in more recent times when I discuss not with 16 year olds but with adults who although might not be able to point to Nigeria on a world map instantaneously have been able to pass judgment on the country, no thanks to the extensive international media coverage following the kidnap of the Chibok girls? What happens when they immediately associate the country with war and terrorism – can I still defend my country so valiantly? I was in a taxi some days ago and the chatty taxi driver asked me what I was going to do after my studies here. I told him I would return home. He asked me where home was and I told him Nigeria.

‘Isnt that the one with war and terrorism and girls are being kidnapped and stuff?’ he said, looking through his mirror, alarmed that I would consider going back. I thought of explaining to him the complexity of the situation, that it wasn’t as simple as he put it. That BBC and Daily Mail were not telling the full story, that he needed to read more and to know that this isn’t the story of the whole of Nigeria. I wanted to tell him it was not close to war ravaged yet, it was still governable and if our leaders only cared the situation could be brought under control. My stop was 5 minutes away and I knew I couldn’t explain it all; most importantly, I knew it was all taxi small talk. He didn’t need a history lecture about Nigeria from me.

So I simply replied ‘Well the more imperative it is that I go back. It is still my country regardless. In every other country in this world, I am a second class citizen. Look at all the mess with the EU elections and all the parties threatening to crack down on immigration; although some are more politically sensitive about it than others. Getting a job here alone is already exponentially difficult; preference goes to UK citizens, EU citizens and then internationals; and even with that there is a chain of preference too. My country is the only place where I get to be first on that list. It is imperative I go back’. The taxi man looked at me through the mirror again and didn’t say anything till he dropped me at my stop. ‘Good luck with everything’ he said. ‘Good luck with everything?’ What did that even mean?

Another day at the gym, a personal trainer and his trainee spent the better part of the training session talking about the Chibok girls; the TV was turned on to BBC and there was an extensive run on the Chibok girls. They talked about my country; just like it was a piece on the map; not like it had real people; people with blood flowing through their veins. Yet these were the people who empathized, they cared; but something in me made me feel like there was some element of superiority in that show of empathy, something within me made me feel like they talked about us like we were a barbarians, or a step behind in evolution or at its kindest, like we were new born kids unable to tell our left from our right. Yet, they hadnt said one word of insult or made one false statement. How does one tell them I do not like the tone with which you empathize with my country? It is increasingly hard to be a proud Nigerian. The mess of the country seems to cross boundaries, rivers and oceans and follow you everywhere you go. Everywhere.

Right before coming home in June, this was my state of mind. I found myself so disgusted with the state of the country. I couldn’t have a conversation about the country without insulting every body holding position of authority; or insulting us, Nigerians, for settling into the system, for accepting things as they are. I once read on a Nigerian tweet, ‘These things happening in Chibok should better stay in Chibok oo,’ or something to that effect. I was livid with our selfishness and our propensity to feel alright even when our neighbor’s house is on fire, oblivious of the fact that fire spreads and our house will be the next on fire. I was honestly of very little love and admiration for the country or its citizens- myself included. When I learnt I was going to attend a Judges Conference in Abuja while at home, I confided in some friends my fear of living in Abuja for those days. I was told ‘Dont worry, they wont attack places like Sheraton now’ (the venue of the conference). That ‘feel alright’ attitude again. The fact that the statement had some truth to it and that it brought some degree of comfort to me made me feel somewhat ashamed.

The conference lasted 3 days and in those 3 days, I seemed to fall in love with my country again. This is not because those problems went away; but because I had the opportunity to witness something beautiful in the midst of ‘all that chaos’. It was a three day Maritime conference for judges to discuss the developments in the Maritime industry. Again, like many facets of our existence, Nigeria is living grossly beyond its potential; we should be a leading Maritime nation in the world, but yet we are as good as a landlocked desert nation. Not till recently have the authorities shown a little interest in the area, and with that comes various laws, both  international and national, which the judges and lawyers alike had to contend with. The maritime industry is a complex industry and there are usually billions of dollars and the nation’s economy at stake. This conference thus was to stimulate an interactive and educative atmosphere for judges and lawyers to work out the fine and not so fine legal aspects of the industry.

That in itself is beautiful.There is something incredibly beautiful and heart warming to seeing men and women, sit in a room from 9am till 6/7pm talking about the laws, the decisions which have been made on the laws and how to improve them; how to make it better for Nigeria and Nigerians.  As expected, it was an intellectually charged atmosphere, a lot of ‘may it please your Lordships’, ‘your honour’ floating around, but for the first time in my life, I didn’t think that was pretentious in any way.

During one of the sessions, I watched a commentator deliver a paper, questioning the reasoning behind Nigeria’s legal practices in relation to arbitration (one of my favourite fields of law)’; how Nigeria had the tendency of refusing to acknowledge arbitration agreements between parties. As I had been taught by my professors here, this was bad because it voided contractual terms; two people agreed to do something ‘e.g. we will settle all our disputes in the ICC in London’ and suddenly the court, a external third party came in to say ‘no you cannot do that! You must settle your disputes in our courts.’ I agreed with the commentator on how the very many negative effects of that. Mostly I was disturbed by how dictatorial it seemed and I kept ruminating within me, ‘But why is Nigeria ever the backward nation? We don’t want to accept arbitration. Yet our courts are so satiated and cases so back logged’.

However, not till the discussions began did I appreciate that there were finer threads to the issue; because I was educated in an ‘developed nation’, I had failed to appreciate the struggles of arbitration for a ‘developing’ nation like Nigeria. It broke my heart to see that I profess to care about Nigeria but I had been so quick to assume we were backward; I had been so arrogant to assume that the millions of years of legal practice sitting in that hall and in the country was misdirected (not that they couldn’t be, but I hadn’t heard us out first). A Supreme Court Justice summarised the discussion in this way: ‘What happens when a big multinational makes a contract with an Aba trader  to deliver goods and those goods are delivered in substandard condition…. An arbitration agreement would say that this Aba trader would have to go all the way to London, to get a judgement, he will have to appoint and pay an arbitrator, pay the fees to the London Arbitration Court. The Aba trader will just accept the substandard goods and perhaps an apology instead of traveling all the way to London to receive justice…What happens is that our people are constantly short-changed; this is when the courts step in. We are not against arbitration, however we must follow international practices in accordance with the justifiable interests of the nation’. 

I guess it sounds simple enough. I always had the feeling that international laws and conventions are always skewed to the benefit of  Western Countries, but I guess it never occurred to me that being home so seldomly, and being so immersed in the media (the international media especially) I started to lose touch with what international law meant for developping nations, meant for my country. I learnt that even in situations like arbitration which I thought and was taught that all ‘fair and equitable’, I hadnt gone further to ask the question ‘for who?’I realised leaving the conference that I had in a weird way got sucked into all the propaganda in the media concerning Nigeria.

This is not to say that atrocities are not going on in the country; sadly they are. This is not to negate the apparent incompetence of our leaders in regard to these atrocities. This is simply to say that there is some positivity in the nation. There were still Nigerians out there; informed, educated and learned who were not just out to oil their purses but to help other Nigerians; to help ourselves. Now, whether the things said at that conference would be implemented remains another question, but it is undeniably incredibly exciting (at least for me) to see that discussions like that were going on. It is a first step. Also the quality of the conference was so impressive; everything was top notch; the speakers were alive and engaging, the judges were incredibly articulate and the lawyers incredibly smart and discursive. And it all happened in NIGERIA! That is a story for the international media houses!

It isn’t that country where there is ‘war, terrorism and stuff’ alone; it is that country where there are incredibly bright minds trying to make good not only a suppressive national system but also an equally suppressive international system. It isn’t all bad; there is some good in Nigeria as well. We just have to look away from CNN and BBC, from the front ‘SHOCKER’ first pages of national newspapers, we have to read in between the pages, read the small prints and they are there.

 

 ****

If you are a lawyer reading this, I appreciate that the topic of arbitration is more complex than I have presented but it is the only way I could write this post without writing a textbook. It is already a VERY long post!  If you read all the way to the end (without skipping lines and paragraphs), even to reading this ‘small print’……WOW! Thank You!!!!

Tales from the Boarding House: The Science of a Single Bucket of Water

Being the head boy in a secondary school comes with a lot of responsibilities- early Monday morning meetings with the principal and his vices as they express their ‘disappointment’ in me for not handling the melee that went down during the weekend effectively.

‘Two boys have been sent home on sick exeat after getting into fights- over an ordinary bucket of water? Is that the image of the school we are promoting? King’s College is unlike other federal government schools- it is not a place for thugs, or , or…’ He stammers, searching for words, at the same time dabbing early morning sweat from his face.

I watch him attentively, wondering why he sweats more than the average Nigerian. Does it have anything to do with his peculiar tree bark complexion or his obtusely large forehead? Surely it is the fact that he wears a grey woolen suit in the scotching heat? He finally finds the word with a little help from his colleague

‘…. thank you, miscreants? Eh are you area boys? Tell me Tonye, did we admit area boys to this place?

I shake my head, no, very respectfully, my eyes meeting the brown threadbare rug.

‘You say no? So why is it that you boys…eh eh ..cannot settle your disputes like men- diplomatically without punching each other? Do you know the reputation this school has? And now you children are here throwing it away, fighting every time like Alaba boys! And why are you, headboy, you were sleeping? Sleeping while your house is on fire? This is preposterous!’

He concluded, the Vice Principal following on his heels immediately, as if on cue, as if rehearsed. I wouldn’t be surprised if it really was rehearsed. I wouldn’t be surprised if after I walked out, they commended one another’s theatrics and encouraged Mr. Adebiyi to switch up his choice of words sometimes. His constant use of ‘Well, the others have said it all, a word is enough for the wise’ is now predictable and sincerely attracts nothing but derision to their polished performance.

For now, I wished I could explain to them that ‘a bucket of water’ in a federal boarding house, even in King’s College, is not ‘ordinary’. There is an incredible amount of man power and brain power that goes into ‘an ordinary bucket of water’; which are enough to make you slap the medulla oblongata out of your bunk mate if you wake up to find that he ‘mistakenly’ used your bucket of water.

I wished I could explain that as a senior boy in a boarding house where sending junior students on errands is punishable by suspension from the school, that the ‘bucket of water’ business is more intense; each day having its own mechanics. For instance, on a Sunday, like yesterday when the fight took place, one woke up incredibly grumpy to the incessant snoring of one dorm mate, and visual assault from the blinding white light coming from another’s rechargeable lamp while he was getting dressed for the Sunday Morning Catholic Mass. This particular Sunday was Visiting Day; a day when parents visited their boarding children after almost a month and half of little or no contact, with mountains of tasty tomato rich jollof rice and theft inducing fried chicken, coldslaw and bottles of Five Alive juice and chilled cold water- all these akin to one finding an oasis in a dessert. The more senior the student is, the euphoria of visiting day was directed away from coolers of rice and bottle of juice- the excitement was channeled to another attraction- Girls!

Being in a single sex school, Visiting day is a wonderful day to look, talk to and admire older sisters of junior boys or younger sisters of your mates; without getting in trouble with the patrons and matrons. It is a day when girls step into the school, not in monotonic checked blouses and shapeless berets, but with nice hipster jeans, Sunday best gowns or nice mini skirts and flirty tops. It is a day when no senior boy dares look sloppy, mediocre or just ‘there’- you want to stand out with sharply iron pressed uniforms (we made the live at home students do this a week in advance for us) and wisps of cheap cologne!

The whole of Saturday is spent waiting on the un-promised benevolence of NEPA in restoring electricity, standing bucket in hand after the ‘toot toot toot’ of a starting pumping machine, and tripping over one’s self, after the excited call from a junior ‘water has come’; sometimes slippers and shirts abandoned in the process, running on gravel amidst broken coconut shells or bottles- a bucket of water can surely not be classified as ‘ordinary’- especially when the next day is visiting day! Waking up the next morning to find your bucket of water gone, and your bunkmate who went to bed with a parched bucket under his bunk, dressed neatly, shiny and nicely fragranced, you knew that something was wrong. In that moment, all the energy spent waiting, running, shoving and pushing for water amongst juniors, carrying the bucket back and the satisfaction spread over your face all cumult into an intense ball of anger which threatened to squeeze life out of you or the thief. At that moment, you know that it was either that bunk mate manufactured that pocket of water or someone would get hurt. It was usually the latter, as the bunkmate, smug looking in his whitest Sunday shirt and trousers, would never admit to having seen a drop of water in your bucket the previous night, despite the fact that he saw you walk into the dormitory with it. In that moment, with other boys gathering around the scene, he knew that he was damned whether or not he admitted to taking the water. He would take the honourable road; he would not admit to being a thief and you too will take the honourable road of defending your property. That is why it is possible to fight over an ‘ordinary bucket of water’.

I wanted to explain this science of survival to the Principals, but I think there is something they find soothing about their own voices which I am yet to understand because right after they scold and chide me- interjecting questions like ‘where were you eh?’ ‘Why are you the headboy?’ – they quickly dismiss me with a wave of the hand- without waiting to get answers to their own questions! This is why I think it is a charade for them- a game. For if they were willing to listen to me, I would explain this science of survival to them and they might understand why grown men fought over ‘ordinary buckets of water’. They weren’t ready to listen and I wasn’t ready to be further lectured on the history of the school, the history of Nigeria and the sacred and coveted nature of the post I was ‘abusing’. So I walked away from the office, not forgetting to wear a doleful look across my face as I offered a quick ‘I am sorry’ to which there is surely a nonsensical reply ‘Sorry for yourself’.

I walk away to answer to the Boarding House Master now, to play the same game, with the same outcome.

 

 

 

….

If you attended a Nigerian Boarding house, I hope you relate 🙂

 

 

 

5 People I met on my flight to Nigeria…

The ‘Posh Warri’ Boy

I am usually not very lucky with flight seat partners. I once sat next to man who saw me reading a book called ‘Ugly’ (by Constance Briscoe- one of the best books ever) and he said ‘Why are you reading such a book, this clearly isnt you’. There were many things I wanted to say in response like:

‘How do you know this isnt me?Do you know ANYTHING about me?Cant you see I am reading and would much rather not involve myself in flight chit chat?Do you only read books you personally identify with? Isnt the point of reading to explore new worlds? Why read books which only point out to me what is going on in my life? Why wont you just leave me alone in peace to fly these 7 hours?!!!’

Anyway, let us just say these are the kinds of seat partners I have. I usually sleep deprive myself so I wouldn’t have to be subjected to awkward silence inter-spaced 7 hour conversations! When I flew on Tuesday, I was VERY sleep deprived- I hadn’t slept in 48 hours!

But on the flight home, sleep eluded me- my head couldn’t seem to find that right spot that triggers my inflight sleeping beauty. So I turned on my inflight tv and started to watch Catching Fire- one of the Hunger Games trilogy. One thing about me is that I find myself crying a lot during movies, even when I do not want to. So when the tears started dropping, I quickly sort out my prepared tissue and held it below my eyes. But too late, the guy sitting to my left caught me.

‘Are you okay?’ he asked. I nodded very quickly and looked away.

‘Are you sure?’ he asked again and I started to laugh at how stupid I would be look if I explained the situation.

‘Of course.’ I said, and explained the situation.

And that was our conversation starter; which lead to a 7 hour discussion of everything under the moon; Career, Education, Christianity, Feminism,  Love and ‘Intimacy’, Veganism and Culture (he thinks I cant be vegan because it is against my culture!), Music, Movies and Literature. I actually enjoyed the discussion and for the first time I can say I had a cool flight seat partner- at least during the duration of the conversation.

So meet ‘Posh Warri Boy; he is a music producer (hahahaha- surprise surprise), 26 years old, studied music at University and now produces for ‘famous artistes; he dropped names like Waje and Wande Coal.  He played me some of his tracks (I actually enjoyed them). When he found out I am a new graduate, he ordered us wine and we toasted to my graduation- that was kind of nice. When he asked how old I am and I made him guess- He said 26 (and when my mother saw me outside the airport she said I look 16 because my afro was out ). I told him I had my passport to prove it- he said it means nothing because his passport says he was born in 1999 and yet he is 26,  he tried to explain how this was possible but I think tuned out after that (something smelled fishy-I sm newly Vegan so I try to keep away from fish- or anything fishy! Lol- okay dry joke -sorry :p).

Oh why did I call him ‘posh warri boy’- because when he told me he was from Warri,  I made the comment ‘Warri boy no dey carry last’ (meaning that they are super street smart and are born with hustler genes) and he said ‘I am a Posh Warri Boy’.

 

The Hyper Baby

I am obsessed with kids- I think they are the most beautiful things created- they are angels. Well this angel was super HYPERACTIVE. She turned the aisle of the plane into a stadium and kept running up and down and making friends. She actually made friends with everyone in the flight, even the non-Nigerians and flight attendants. The first time she saw me; she acted disinterested, till I wove my beady African hand band in her face and she instantly climbed on my lap and I fell in love with her. I could not help but give her the hand band. She started to play with my neatly arranged afro and I surprised myself by not caring. She made friends with Warri Boy too- Oh random fact Warri Boy and I had exactly the same hand band and so he insisted on giving me his when mine got taken by the little girl. She actually took my bracelet and ran off and the next time she came back they weren’t on her wrist anymore.

I put on some cartoon for her but my hyper baby was too hyper to watch it- she was too busy bouncing her head off my chest, and unhooking and re-hooking the food table with her feet. I fed her for most of the flight and I got orange juice and cake spilled on me severally. She got given a pen by one of the flight attendants and my white shirt, face and palm became her canvas. I was in such a good mood and I didnt care. She stood up occasionally and ran around but always came back to me. When I tried sleeping, she would run, wake me up and run away. At some point, she pooped in her diapers and her mother took her away and the next minute she was back.

Meet hyper baby, he name is Angie. She is beautifully dark skinned, very very adorable- those huge cheeks and large eyes. She wore a pink shirt and and pink shorts and made me her work of art.

 

The Typical Nigerian Man

Well there is nothing much to say about this man except that when he saw that ‘hyper baby’ was so interested in me he said ‘You should hurry up and have your own babies. This is a good sign.’

(Okay then, I guess the whole flight should be expecting babies too!) While I contemplated whether to respond to that I looked down his wrist and saw my bracelet- the one I gave to Hyper Baby- it was on his wrist!   I had a good mind of asking him for it, (has a lot of sentimental value- I stole it from my brother) but I decided to leave it with him- ‘Sisterhood of Traveling Bracelets’ (I guess).

 

The Activist

I call him this because he saw a situation he didn’t like and he took action immediately. Since trollies for packing baggage are not free of charge but for hire  at the Nigerian airport, I always find myself either having to log my bags like a maniac or getting lucky and someone pays for me( has happened twice now). This time, I had only N100 and was hoping  I could cry talk my way out of this (have gotten a trolley like this before). As I stood on the line, I decided against cry talking, ‘Posh Warri Boy’ was somewhere down the line and if he happened to see me cry twice today, I might look weird. I was about to turn around and accept my fate of unglamorous piling my bags on top of each other and bending over and pushing them at high speed out of the door into the waiting area, when this very frustrated ‘Americana’- I say Americana because his accent was Nigerian-American but I dont know where he actually came from. He got to the ticket stall the following exchange took place

‘I would like a trolley please’

‘You have to pay sir’

‘Pay? Pay for what? You people in this country wont kill someone.’ He let out a long hiss and the rest of the queue burst out laughing. In protest, he paid for 10 tickets and while shouting about how messed up the system, he handed out the other tickets to the other 9 people down the line. I was the 9th person! I am grateful for the activist.

 

The Guy in the Blue Shirt

This is the man in the blue shirt. I am in love with blue and so anybody wearing blue is automatically my person of interest-well not really but close. I got to gate D47 and saw guy in blue and did the small awkward smile that Nigerians exchange at airports. He got checked in behind me and sat a few seats behind me. When I got up to use the bathroom or to give Hyper baby to her mother, we exchanged quick stiff smiles too. And finally when we got the Nigerian Immigration and after going through 3 different hoops to enter our country, we finally settled into a conversation while waiting for our baggage. I told him I expected my bag to come out 50 years  later and he said he expected his to come ‘a bit earlier than that’. We chit-chatted about this and that; most of it was about the ridiculous man who came down from the flight with a bottle of Hennessy in his hand, grossly inebriated and kept talking and cussing loudly (most times in Igbo- moment of silence fellow Igbo people).  Guy in Blue Shirt and I talked about how different things would be if Hennessy Man tried this in another country, and we talked about how the immigration did nothing but laugh at his behaviour.  He asked me about the legal repercussions and he laughed when I said I was brain dead after my exams. He was very kind to me, helped me get my suitcases when they went by and got it arranged on my trolley. My suitcases came out after only 10-15 minutes so his parting words were that I have ‘more faith in Nigeria’.

 

Most Entertaining Flight Yet!